December 13, 2010

Advent and the Road to Zion

Isaiah 2:2-5 prepares us for the coming of the Messiah by directing our attention to spiritual realities on the mountain of the Lord. Today, as been the case for millennia, pilgrimage to Jerusalem is not only a physical journey, but above all a spiritual one. At least this was the experience of my family and the pilgrims we journeyed with this last summer. The cultures and history of Israel we were exposed to were so rich and beautiful. Even more important was the faith we saw. Even in poverty, in contention, and in all kinds of trials and persecution there blossomed genuine love of God, true devotion to Him and the very best of humanity. The earthly Jerusalem and our physical pilgrimage could not account for the spiritual realities that were shining through. Something spiritual was going on, and continues to go on for everyone who searches for the Lord to worship Him and to understand His ways.  

This spiritual journey is renewed every Advent in the liturgies of the Church.  According to Isaiah, Mt. Zion is where true worship is offered to God and in the midst of this true worship, true teaching.  Such worship is of the heart.  Such teaching is for the heart.  The heart was made for such things, and advent is a time to take care of these needs of the heart.  Without the truth, the heart suffers - this is why basing one's spiritual life in prosaic myths, especially secular ones, always dehumanizes and limits true human potential.  With the truth - our whole being flourishes.  That is why those who find the road to Zion in their hearts are called blessed in Psalm 84.  Isaiah's prophecy encourages hope: those who seek to worship the Lord in spirit and truth are never disappointed - for the light of the Lord guides them.   

For Christians, the earthly Jerusalem is a sign and shadow of the heavenly Jerusalem, a living reality in their relationship with the Lord. This is true for everyone with faith and baptism in Christ.  How do we find the spiritual Mt. Zion?  Where do we worship the Lord and listen to his teaching?  
St. John describes the descent of the heavenly Jerusalem into our space and time like a Bride in procession to her Bridegroom (Rev. 21:2).  This description of true Christian worship is realized and experienced whenever we repent of sin and lift up our hearts to the Lord - such movements of the heart are always with and in the Bride of Christ, the Church.   In a powerful and unrepeatable way, this same reality is realized in the Mass, the thanksgiving sacrifice of Christ renewed in our lives today.   The Road to Zion we tread in our hearts leads to His Heart - this is the journey of Advent.



Isaiah 2:2-5 prepares us for the coming of the Messiah by directing our attention to spiritual realities on the mountain of the Lord. Today, as been the case for millennia, pilgrimage to Jerusalem is not only a physical journey, but above all a spiritual one. At least this was the experience of my family and the pilgrims we journeyed with this last summer. The culture and history of Israel we were exposed to were so rich and beautiful. Even more important was the faith we saw. Even in poverty, in contention, and in all kinds of trials and persecution there blossomed genuine love of God, true devotion to Him and the very best of humanity. The earthly Jerusalem and our physical pilgrimage could not account for the spiritual realities that were shining through. Something spiritual was going on, and continues to go on for everyone who searches for the Lord to worship Him and to understand His ways.  

This spiritual journey is renewed every Advent in the liturgies of the Church.  According to Isaiah, Mt. Zion is where true worship is offered to God and in the midst of this true worship, true teaching.  Such worship is of the heart.  Such teaching is for the heart.  That is why those who find the road to Zion in their hearts are called blessed in Psalm 84.  Isaiah's prophecy encourages hope: those who seek to worship the Lord in spirit and truth are never disappointed - for the light of the Lord guides them.   

For Christians, the earthly Jerusalem is a sign and shadow of the heavenly Jerusalem, a living reality in their relationship with the Lord. This is true for everyone with faith and baptism in Christ.  How do we find the spiritual Mt. Zion?  Where do we worship the Lord and listen to his teaching?  
St. John describes the descent of the heavenly Jerusalem into our space and time like a Bride in procession to her Bridegroom (Rev. 21:2).  This description of true Christian worship is realized and experienced whenever we repent of sin and lift up our hearts to the Lord - such movements of the heart are always with and in the Bride of Christ, the Church.   In a powerful and unrepeatable way, this same reality is realized in the Mass, the thanksgiving sacrifice of Christ renewed in our lives today.   And Christ comes to us in poverty, in persecution, in rejection, in all kinds of trials - all of this is part of the mystery of the Heavenly Jerusalem to which we pilgrimage in faith. What a wonderous encounter: the Road to Zion we tread in our hearts leads to His Heart - this, the journey of Advent.

Madonna and Child, Southern France